Scientist have discovered the cause if the Irish potato famine was due to a fungus with the name of Phytophthora infestans, or “P. infestans”. The fungus doesn’t do so well in hot, dry weather. But when warm and muggy, which happens to be how Irelands climate is in the summer, the fungus flourishes and spreads at an enormous rate. A single plant can release several million spores in one day. When Phytophthora infestans first comes in contact with a potato plant, its white and barely noticeable to the human eye. It rapidly produces spores that eat away at the plants juices and tissues. The decaying, black potatoes that are left over as a result, feed the fungus and it sends out more spores through the air to infect other plants. When it rains, the rain carries the spores into the soil, they then attack new plants and infect them in the same manner.
Before the Irish potato famine, the Irish had grown potatoes for more than 200 years. Being first introduced by the famous English explorer, Sir Walter Raleigh around 1600. Irish farmers found the potato plant to be very easy to grow and needed little maintaining and training. By 1800, the Irish were the first country in Europe with the potato being a major food source, mainly eaten by Irish peasants. The potato had enough nutrition to keep Ireland strong and healthy. Ireland produced about 12 tons per acre in the early 1770’s.
Phytophthora infestans had migrated from North America where it had destroyed potato crops two years prior to 1845. Potatoes had also been plagued in England, France, and Belgium, but they weren’t nearly as dependent on potatoes as Ireland was.
Irish were very in tune with nature and the changing seasons. Majority of the Irish fold made their living by grazing cattle. Ireland had four main provinces: Ulster in the north, Munster in the south, Leinster to the east, and Connacht to the west. They were each ruled by a king with authority over the lesser tribal kings. In the eighth century A.D., Invaders from Scandinavia began to attack Ireland. In 1014 Gaelic tribes joined with a high king by the name of Brian Boru and defeated the Vikings. The Vikings invaders settled and intermarried with the Gaels. After the dethroning of...